Galatians 3:19, 22
19Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator
22But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
As verse 19 of Galatians reads, the law was given because men continued disobeying God to follow their uncontrollable sin nature. It also states that the law would remain in place until the Seed, Jesus, came to deliver the promise. Exodus 16 also goes on to explain that the children of Israel ate manna for 40 years, until they entered the promised land of Canaan. This reiterates the expression of Galations 3, that the Law would remain in effect until the resurrection of Jesus gained legal control over the kingdoms of the world. The goal of the Father, through the period of the law, was to bind and exhaust every method of the flesh until its will became broken. It was cleverly designed to lure and incarcerate the untamable sin nature and reveal to all men that it is impossible to reach a perfect God using carnality. All were guilty of sin, therefore all would be bound by the law.
Romans 3:10, 23 KJV
10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:…23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
For most intents and purposes, the law functioned much like any prison which is a place designated for those who abuse their liberties. However, not all holding cells are created equal. The greater the transgression, the greater the punishment. The harder the crime, the harder the time. While every prisoner is guilty, varying degrees of wrongdoings determine the various levels of imprisonment. Let’s review Jacob’s blessing towards the two.
Genesis 49:5-7 NASB
5“Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence. 6“Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen. 7“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.
Their punishment was clearly, quite severe. Again, it is clear that the implications of Jacob’s prophetic words were far-reaching, even beyond the days of his sons. By divine influence, his declarations were not a limited reference to the brothers’ treachery at Shechem. They prophesied that all men guilty of sin would have a part in crucifying Christ, but those akin to Levi would suffer the greatest penalties.
*Numbers 18:1-3, 7, 20-24
1And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father’s house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. 2And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness. 3And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die 7Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest’s office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest’s office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. 20And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
The Levites’ Portion
21And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 22Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. 23But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 24But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.*
As God began to outline instructions for operation in the dispensation of the law, He chose Aaron and his Levite descendants to be the serving priests. Contrary to popular belief, this was not some reversal of Jacob’s unfortunate curse; it was the manifestation of it and its purpose. As we’ve previously discussed, the Lord never arbitrarily punishes anyone, so any non-lethal punishments He declares, no matter the severity, are intended to bring us back to Him with humility and gratitude. This was also His intention with the tribe of Levi.
Some may believe God’s designation of Himself as “Levi’s portion” and inheritance was a special privilege (verse 20), but it was actually a chastisement. Picture Israel as a classroom full of misbehaving children, and Levi was the most rebellious. So, when the Lord made Himself Levi’s portion, it was like the teacher telling Levi, the problematic student, to move his desk by Him. It’s as if the instructor said, “since you think you can do this better than I can, I’ll give you an opportunity”, knowing full well Levi would fail to adequately serve the other students. This is why Numbers 18 proclaims that Levi would “do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation” and “bear the iniquity of the sanctuary.”
Yahweh was focused on exposing the prideful stubbornness of flesh, and He knew the only way to educate a Levi-type people was to place them in the humanly impossible role of Christ, who was the only perfect priest. Jesus was foreordained to successfully “bear the iniquity” of the people, but Levi insisted that flesh could do the heavy lifting. So, for the season of Levi, God placed the heavy burden of Christ upon their backs, intending to break their unrighteous will.
23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
During their imprisonment to the Law, the tribe of Levi was given the task of serving the other tribes in the tabernacle. This was intended to teach the Israelites of the work that only Jesus could—and would—fulfill. The hope of Leah, the hope of God, and the hopeful season of Levitical priests are all the same. It is the hope that the law might bring sinful flesh into submission and recognition of its need for a true Savior.
*Hebrews 8:3-12 NASB
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ[a] has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:[b]
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”*
The entire book of Leviticus, named after Levi, is full of laws and restrictions, instructions and guidelines serving to imprison the fleshly nature of men into humility, specifically Israel. All of this was created to cause men to seek and appreciate liberty through faith in a Redeemer. If it had not been for the law, no Jews would have ever assumed that they needed Jesus to do anything. Their arrogance would have continued to insist on doing things their way, rather than the way ordained by God. If they were never bound by the law, they would have never comprehended the value of liberty. Ultimately, when we fail to get past our carnal proclivities, the Lord weakens our fleshly nature through patience and persecution until we are silent enough to see in the spirit.
2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Because of their deceitful ways, the Levites had the shortest leash of all the tribes of Israel, and the priests of Levi were held to the most restrictive standards [Leviticus 21]. Some of them like, Aaron’s sons Abihu and Nadab were killed because of their failure to abide by these strict standards, while others, like Eli’s boys were judged, because they “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt**”**
Leviticus 10:1–2 KJV
1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Without Jesus, His example or our liberation from God’s legal prison, we are neither free or capable of restoring ourselves to the position we lost. If the law is not written in our hearts to change our nature, we will ultimately and always fail at lasting righteousness. Those who operate with religious pride are unwilling to accept that their past sins are deserving of inescapable death willfully ignorant of the purpose of the law. They are the kind that suppose being called by God is a reward of their good rather than opportunity to escape their evils. Pastors, preachers and spiritual leaders fall into grave error when they assume that a position granted by grace is personal merit for which the Lord should reward them and people should serve them. This was the way of many of the Levites and Pharisees.
The abuse concerning the law reached its heights in the days of Jesus through the Pharisees who operated by it, attempting to entrap Jesus. The law had been introduced, almost sarcastically, to Israelites who insisted they could control or protect their own destiny. Yet somehow, the Levitical priests and Pharisees became arrogant, even in their imprisonment!
13But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!17Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. 23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.26Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Israel was headed straight for judgment. The law was the burdensome measure that God would have preferred not to take, but He was left no choice. From Aaron and the beginning of the Levitical priests, through the Old Covenant, God patiently waited while the heavy weight of the law squeezed what salvageable Israelites remained into the days of Jesus. Stubbornness persisted with most, but a few were able break free into the liberties of the new covenant. For most of the rest, they would deny the hand of grace and dishonor the law right into the hands judgment. The manna from heaven was handled with dishonesty, and the law was manipulated for the advancement of prideful priests. For those whose flesh remained unbreakable, the personified manifestation of the bread from heaven would be rejected by the majority of His own people.
John 6:35, 48-51
35And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 48I am that bread of life. 49Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
The next season of man is characterized by a descendant of the fourth son of Jacob. It was time to introduce One who could conquer all flesh, once and for all. The strength of the sin nature would soon meet it’s match in the Lion of the tribe of Judah.